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Marek Makosiej
December 21, 2022
15 min read

Localization vs Internationalization: 2 Sides, Same Coin

hand with the coin to pay for translation services


Language services used to be very limited some decades back. But with the arrival of the internet and the digital media influence, anyone and everyone is on the internet.


Millions of people rely on the internet for their livelihood. At the same time, millions of them use the internet just for entertainment. Whatever the purpose the internet is used for, it is undoubtedly utilized by a lot of people who do not speak English as a first language. Since most of the data online is in that language, there is no doubt that there is a severe need to develop translation technologies better and better.


Translation is not what it used to be. We see every day as new trends come and go. With these trends, our priorities rapidly change. On social media, people love to interact with each other in their native language. This is an indication that end-users of nearly any product or service in the world love to have other things translated into their specific language as well.


We are going to explore the most prevalent language services in 2023 now. Let's get it on!


Localization and Internationalization Explained


Localization refers to the adjustment of such services that can preserve the intent, expressions, and methods of explaining something so that the target language completely absorbs the translated text.


Language localization is the process of adapting a product's translation to a specific country or region. It is the second phase of a more extensive product translation process and cultural adaptation to account for differences in distinct international markets and different cultures, known as internationalization and localization.


In computing, internationalization is often abbreviated as i18n. Together with localization (l10n), are means of adapting computer software to different languages. It also includes regional peculiarities and technical requirements of a target language. Internationalization is designing a software application and its UI to be adapted to various languages and regions without making significant variations.


Internationalization is the process of making applications international in appearance and operation. Internationalization is essential for any website or software app to be marketable in multiple countries where different languages are spoken, which makes it an important aspect of any business strategy. And for this to work, a successful localization strategy must be in place.


Localization is the process of adapting software for a specific area or language by translating the text and adding region-specific elements. Localization makes use of the infrastructure or flexibility provided by internationalization.





Related content:A Guide To Understanding Translation and Localization





Software Localization (L10N)


app code ready for localization


Adjusting a software program and its user interface (so basically, its resource files/user interface resources, documentation, incl. number formats, date formats, diagrams, graphics, or even people's names or street names) to the requirements of another language is referred to as software localization. It may include translating several parts of the software and adapting its content to the target language and locale.


90% of the software users now expect that any locale-specific components of the software will be in their language. Apart from legal requirements, users and user experience rule here.


The best practice is before the app localization phase starts, the software goes through an internationalization process during the development process. This ensures easy localization and readiness of the application for global markets.



Website Localization


website prepared for translation


Website localization is much more than just translation. Just like with software, this localization method deals with adapting the website's different parts into the target language. It is not a mere translation of the content present on the website. It must have cultural adherence and take cultural factors into account, as well.  


Marketing Copy Translation


marketing pro browsing translated website


When the marketing material is to be translated, there are several factors to be considered. Some of them directly relate to the target language's preferred mode of marketing channels. Other factors may be using cultural references in marketing campaigns.





Training Materials Translation


translation team during training course


An area of translation that can only be handled by localization experts. Fortunately, many professional translation agencies deal with such complex translation projects. 


Internationalization vs Globalization vs Localization vs Translation: a Celebrity Deathmatch


boxing gloves


Round 1: Globalization


one sprayed on the wall


Globalization is the process of making products available to more people through increased trade and travel across international borders. It allows companies to sell their products in various parts of the world by exporting them overseas and importing them back into local markets.


Round 2: Internationalization


fingers showing two


Internationalization and localization are the logical consequences of globalization. Just like translation is that more obvious part of localization.


As internationalization is the process of adapting a software program so that it can be used in multiple countries or regions, before any translation or localization efforts, it means technical preparation of region-specific elements of the source code. It "uses" the circumstances created by globalization, being a natural next step for digital products and services to become localization- and translation-ready. It's an important part of a localization process where various aspects need to be handled for a product to work properly in the specific target markets. As Joel Spolsky says:


"If you are a programmer working and you don't know the basics of characters, character sets, encodings, and Unicode, and I catch you, I'm going to punish you by making you peel onions for six months in a submarine".


Think this way: ASCII will get you into trouble, and UTF8 is your friend.


Round 3: Localization


three cups of coffee


Globalization of international business necessitates localization and the adjustment of global technologies, products, and processes to local cultural preferences.


Localization and refitting are also required for customer segmentation in different markets as well as ensuring consistency across geographies and new locales.


Round 4: Translation


four planes


Translation involves the process of making a text from one language into another - this may be done by a human translator or machine translation service.


You need them all to go global and have a fully internationalized product. This is where your localization strategy becomes critical. It's all about user preferences in the first place, right? That's what world-readiness is about!






Related content: 3 Scenarios of How Wrong Your Website Translation Can Go and Why





DTP Translation


If you have never gone for a translation or if you are not from the realm of graphic design, chances are that you have never encountered the term "desktop publishing." Even if you did hear it, you might not have paid it any attention. This will change when you go for a translation service (be it machine translation or human translation), and you have the content in pdf format. The project manager will ask you if you also need DTP for that.


What Is DTP or Desktop Publishing?


Simply put, it means to layout pages on a computer. Think of a newspaper or the cover of a book. Typically, we don't pay much attention to these things. But they do have different elements when you look at them. These include colors, font size, pictures, tables, and more.


A DTP expert uses various tools like Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, QuarkXPress, Figma, Sketch, and many more, to create the documents that you need. These tools depend on the task that needs to be done.


What Does DTP Have to Do with Translation? 


Well, when you translate some content, you need to think about its delivery. Nowadays, you have the web for this purpose. You can use that translated version of the original text on your website, social media channels, emails, and more.


For this purpose, the most common type of document is MS Word documents. But sometimes, MS Word is just not enough to fulfill your requirements. This could happen with a book, a presentation, or more.


This is when we find out just how vital DTP actually is.


When you ask someone to translate a presentation, a book cover, or a pamphlet, there is so much more to it than just translating the text. That is only a part of DTP.


One of the things that DTP experts have to take care of is the amount of expansion or contraction that is needed and how it can affect the shape of the entire document. English is a concise language, and when you try to translate some text from it to another language, it expands.


Another example is when you convert a file to Chinese or any dialect of Japanese. German or Spanish are written from left to right, but Chinese, some Japanese dialects, and even some dialects of Korean go from top to bottom. Another case in point is Arabic, a right-to-left (RTL) language. That changes the entire layout of your content and its placement.


So, not only do you need translation, but you also need to redo the design. Professional DTP experts can make sure that your text is accommodated into your design even after these variations.


It can happen with a presentation, a book, or with anything else. For example, let us suppose that you are delivering your thesis presentation at a conference. You will need your translated thesis to look the same as the original one. That is when you call on a DTP expert.


Voice Over


voiceover studio


We all have seen documentaries, videos, commercials, and movies that have a disembodied voice. Whether you look at your television or your mobile phone, you will hear it being used a lot.


Ask anyone what a voice-over is, and they will probably give you an example instead of a definition. Most people think of Morgan Freeman when it comes to voice-over, and they are not wrong. The man has done some fantastic voice-overs in his time. His deep raspy voice somehow connects with viewers like nothing else we've seen. But what is a voiceover precisely? That is the question.


A voice-over is a production technique where you record a voice off-screen to be used on-screen. And it's not only television, YouTube, and movies where it is used. You will also hear it on the telephone along with other services.


Here are some examples of voice-over if you are still not sure about it.


  • Narration in a movie or show 
  • An off-screen voice that informs the audience of essential facts or opinions in fiction and non-fiction productions. 
  • Informative and directive voice in commercials or over the phone. 
  • A scripted statement of copy that is read in a specific way.


Voiceover has been with us since the time of the radio. In fact, at that time, it dominated popular channels. Even now, it is one of the best ways to connect with your audience and explain your videos better. More audience engages with a video that has a voice-over than with a video without it.


A voice-over gives your videos versatility and range. It also offers authenticity. Your videos will garner more trust if they have a voice-over. It gives you the chance to make your videos more likable and relatable. Studies have shown that videos with a voice-over that the customers can relate to are more effective than others. People are more inclined to believe a voice that they recognize. This means that when you are targeting a specific market, using native voice-overs can give you the edge you are looking for and propel you further than your competitors.




people watching a movie with translated subtitles


We all have seen movies where the dialogue being spoken by the characters is displayed at the bottom of the screen. This happens on YouTube, Netflix, TV, and almost all types of video display services. This is called a 'subtitle,' and the process of creating the subtitle is called 'subtitling.' The subtitles could be in the same language as the spoken words or in a different language, depending on the video's requirements. Most subtitles are used to explain video content in foreign languages. 


Subtitling is when a person transcribes and translates the audio from a video clip into a different language. At any time during subtitling, two processes are happening simultaneously. The first is obvious. It is the conversion from audio to text. This is called transcription. Information that you could hear is now available for you to see and read. The next step is converting that text into the target language. For example, an Italian dialogue can be read in another language by the desired audience.


For a subtitle to achieve its goal, you have to pay special attention to the timing. The minimum duration for a subtitle is one second, and the maximum time is 6 to 7 seconds. That is how long it takes for someone to read. 


Another thing that you have to take care of is that the subtitles should appear precisely when the characters start to speak. Any discrepancies in this regard will only confuse your viewers. Also, the subtitles should promptly disappear when the character stops talking. They should not linger on. 


The space that you have for subtitles is two lines at the bottom f the screen. Each line can contain up to 40 characters depending on the specifications. Remember that these 40 characters include spaces. The ideal subtitles are fluent, appear natural, and do not disturb the viewers.






Related content: Are You Making These 4 Mistakes in Your Business Growth?








cartoon character speaking a dubbed voice


Nowadays, with the entire world going online, we have many choices in what we want to watch. Also, businesses have a lot of options in what they want to show you. One of the ways that they can use existing content for new markets is through dubbing. Dubbing is the process where the original recording is suppressed, and new audio in a different language is superimposed over it. Good dubbing is mixed in such a way that it sounds completely natural. That doesn't mean that dubbing is an easy task.


Dubbed content is becoming more and more common nowadays thanks to YouTube and other services like Netflix. For example, who hasn't heard of the Avengers? Did you know that viewers from different countries had the experience of watching Avengers in their language? They did not have to experience it in English. Another recent show that has been all over the charts is originally in German, but English dubbing is available. You can watch "Dark" in English and not miss out on anything that is going on the screen.


Although there are subtitles for those who want to experience the original thing, most people prefer dubbed versions of videos. That is because dubbing is familiar. People might look at foreign actors, but the language they hear, and more importantly, the voice they hear is local, and that engages them better than anything else. For businesses venturing into foreign markets, dubbing is one of the best ways to increase your reach and visibility and engage customers on a deeper level.


When you dub a video, you give your viewers the power of concentrating on one thing at a time. They don't have to continually keep looking a the subtitles. They can enjoy the video, and you can ensure that the message is communicated well.


It is also cost-effective. Instead of creating different videos, you can use all your existing video content in as many other languages as you want. You just have to make sure that the video content is appropriate for the target market and choose a native speaker or speaker for the dubbing part. This will make your videos more relatable and engaging. 


Food for Thought


pancakes sweeten the deal


World-readiness is a rewarding but also time-consuming process.


When you enter a foreign market, you have to utilize all the tools at your disposal to create an impact and bring in the audience.


Above, we have mentioned some of these language services that globalization, and in turn, internationalization of your product or service needs for you to connect with your target audience at a deeper level and increase your global brand identity, its trust, reliability, and customer loyalty.


Go and grow!



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